Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyDear Sidney, Susan Scott is a wonder. We sold over forty copies of the book, which was very pleasant, but much more thrilling from my standpoint was the food. 

"January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever."

I'd certainly heard of this one and its peculiar title before, but I hadn't really read the plot, so I didn't realize how interesting it sounded. I love, love, love historical fiction of all kinds, and this sounded like a really interesting (although popular) novel. But even semi-popular novels can be good, right? I have read The Essays of Elia too. 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is completely composed of letters, which was a bit confusing at first, but was a good medium. I think it could definitely have worked in normal novel format, though. The epistolary novel is certainly an interesting, and it gives other opportunities for development. The problem with it is that for the conceit to work, the characters have to be in different locations. 

I really enjoyed the writing of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society too. After about 40 pages, I was already deeply immersed in the characters' lives and, like Juliet, wanted to find out more about the literary society and about wartime on Guernsey. I loved the descriptions of the literary society; it's one that I would love to join. The society was born out of necessity, but then its members realized that they loved talking about books with one another. It brings them together. 

 But The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is not just a book about curling up by the fire and reading books, although it is what I would call a feel-good read. The novel does, after all, deal with the aftermath of World War II, and there were a lot of not-so-great things that happened on Guernsey that must be related. One of the members of the literary society, the founding member in fact, is taken to prison and still has not returned as the book opens. 

I really liked the portrayal of Juliet as she was struggling to find a topic that she really wanted to write about. I think it was very convincing. I also loved the letters that she wrote; they were so compelling and so amusing, but many of the letters were also sobering. I did kind of wish that there were more letters from Sidney and his sister to Juliet in certain parts of the book. 

The further I got into the book, the more I wanted to read on. The story of Guernsey is such a compelling one, well described in this wonderful novel, which I would highly recommend.

274 pages. 

Rating: ****


  1. Oh I love that's it's composed of letters! I thought it strange too when I read this other book about magic but it just was a great way to get into the story. I have heard of this title a number of times but didn't look at the description until now. It actually sounds like something I would like (:

    1. Yeah, I really like the epistolary format too, even though it can sometimes be hard to get into.